Willi Smith, whose designs for women are oversized and unconstructed, and Alan Flusser, who specializes in Saville Row strict tailoring for men--the two extremes of the clothing spectrum--were given Coty awards at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York last night. The Coty is considered the industry's highest award, the Oscar equivalent.
Smith, who was a three-time loser as a Coty Award nominee in past seasons, told an audience at a fashion symposium here this week that he knew he was on the right track when he "started seeing real people on the street wearing his clothes."
Said Smith joyfully after he won the coveted "Winnie" statuette: "I hope my winning will get more people to experiment with the kind of clothes I make. I'm particularly pleased that this kind of an award can be given to someone who makes clothes that are not very expensive."
In the national balloting on women's design, Smith beat out nominees Gloria Sachs and Bill Haire. In menswear, nominees besides Flusser were Andrew Fezza and the team of Lance Karesh and Gene Pressman.
Flusser, also a four-time Coty nominee, mused, "I'm glad it finally happened. I was getting tired of waiting." He added, "It won't really make a difference in this country, but it will make a huge difference to my Japanese licensees."
Flusser, who made an appearance at Britches of Georgetown last Saturday, said the award "shows a certain timelessness of my clothes and an understanding of my point of view, which is the return to dress-up elegance menswear."
While Smith and Flusser were the only designers whose awards were chosen by ballot, several other awards were made to old favorites of the fashion industry.
Once a designer has received a Coty award, his second Coty is recorded as a Return Award; the third time around the designer is boosted to the Hall of Fame, and when there are still more awards, citations are given.
Last night Perry Ellis got a second award for menswear and a Citation for his womens' clothes; Norma Kamali was moved to the Hall of Fame, and Alexander Julian received a Citation for his menswear. Bill Blass, who has copped more Coty recognition than any other designer, got his third Citation for his designs for women.
Additionally, Carlos Falchi, whose designs in leather include the status buffalo satchel, and Susan Horton, who designs scarves, received special awards. Selma, Barbara and Jon Weiser, whose group of stores called Charivari on Columbus Avenue in New York spotlight Japanese designers, were recognized for their inventiveness in retailing.
Last night's awards were held as usual for the educational foundation of the fashion industries for aid to students.